The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena was the primary sports arena in the Los Angeles area for many years. It was opened on July 4, 1959 and was the site of many important sporting events over its 57 year history.
Construction on the LA Sports Arena began on April 7, 1958 and cost $8.5 million, or $69.8 million in today’s dollars. Welton Becket was the architect, known for designing many historical buildings in the LA area, including the Capitol Records Building, the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and the Cinerama Dome.
The LA Sports Arena had the distinction of hosting many historical events in pro wrestling history. In the 1980s, the WWE held many house shows there, showcasing many important feuds of the era such as Rick Rude vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts, The Ultimate Warrior vs. The Honky Tonk Man, and “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. Andre The Giant.
Wrestlemania 2 had the distinction of emanating from three different locations, one being the Los Angeles Sports Arena. In the LA portion of the event, Ricky Steamboat faced Hercules in the opening match, followed by Adrian Adonis vs. Uncle Elmer and the Funk Brothers vs. Tito Santana and the Junkyard Dog. In the main event, King Kong Bundy challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship in a steel cage match. An injured Hogan managed to retain the WWE Championship after climbing out of the cage.
“The best part of Wrestlemania 2 was the LA portion,” remembers WWE fan Matt Davis, “Hogan vs. Bundy in a steel cage was more memorable than the mediocre boxing match between Piper and Mr. T.”
Celebrities at the LA Sports Arena for Wrestlemania 2 included Robert Conrad as the guest referee in the main event, Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson as a guest commentator, and LA Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda as a guest ring announcer.
Wrestlemania 7 was also held at the LA Sports Arena on March 24, 1991. It was originally scheduled to be held at the LA Memorial Coliseum next door but was moved to the Sports Arena after the WWE cited safety concerns for then-WWE Champion Sgt. Slaughter. Slaughter was portraying an Iraqi sympathizer at the time, which coincided with the ongoing Gulf War. Due to the patriotism in the wake of the Gulf War, the tagline for Wrestlemania 7 was “Superstars and Stripes Forever”.
In the main event, Hulk Hogan defeated Sgt. Slaughter for the WWE Championship, marking his third reign with the title. In addition, The Ultimate Warrior defeated “Macho Man” Randy Savage in a Retirement Match, bringing an end to their months-long feud and leading to a reunion between Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth.
“Savage and Warrior had a great buildup,” recalls golden era WWE fan Zoe Johnson, “the fans were emotionally involved due to the retirement stipulation and the reunion of Savage and Elizabeth at the end.”
Other highlights of Wrestlemania 7 include the Blindfold Match between Jake “The Snake” Roberts and “The Model” Rick Martel, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase taking on his former bodyguard Virgil, and The Undertaker facing “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka in his first Wrestlemania appearance. Celebrities at Wrestlemania 7 included Regis Philbin, Marla Maples, Alex Trebek, Chuck Norris, and Willie Nelson, to name a few.
The Los Angeles Sports Arena was also the host of the 1994 pay-per-view When Worlds Collide, a joint event between the Mexican AAA promotion and WCW. The event is credited with presenting the lucha libre style of pro wrestling to American audiences. It marked the first time a non-US-based wrestling promotion was presented live on US pay-per-view television.
The event was broadcast in both English and Spanish and had a sold out crowd of 13,000 fans. The main event was a steel cage match between long-time rivals Konnan and Perro Aguayo. The semi-main event was a classic Mask vs. Hair tag team match involving the popular Octagon and El Hijo Del Santo team against the hated duo of Eddie Guerrero and Art Barr.
“I enjoyed the Mask vs. Hair tag team match because the feud between the two teams had been going on for months,” says lucha libre fan Roberto Gomez, “it was a classic match that I wish I could’ve seen in person.”
The success of When Worlds Collide led to several AAA stars working regularly in the US for ECW, WCW, and WWE. Specifically, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Konnan, Psicosis, and Juventud Guerrera were able to attain contracts in the US, leading to more success as they expanded to territories outside of Mexico.
The Los Angeles Sports Arena was a mecca for sports for over a half century. It was demolished in September 2016 to replace it with a newer, more in-demand sports facility. Based on its history of hosting numerous wrestling events, it will always be remembered for its historical significance to the business.